It was quite astounding to hear that the Prince George fire department had been after Lakeland Mills to develop a fire safety plan as far back as 2006.
The mill simply ignored the repeated violation pegged in successive fire inspections.
While that may seem astounding, even more incredulous was the revelation that no major industrial operation in the city has a fire safety plan, even though they are mandated by legislation.
Companies big and small simply ignore the fact that they need a fire safety plan.
Because there are no consequences if they don’t adhere to the dicates of the fire department.
The pattern is readily established.
A fire prevention officer tours the location in question. He or she then writes up a report outlining what needs to be done. The officer then returns a month or two later to check and see what actions have been taken to deal with the deficiencies found. If the item has not been remedied, a box is checked on the form and everyone goes on their merry way.
A year later the fire prevention officer comes back, notes that the item hasn’t yet been addressed, checks the box and the cycle starts to repeat itself.
It’s not that the fire department is not doing its job. It’s that it has very few mechanisms in place to actually enforce fire code regulations. The fire department has to go through the provincial Fire Commissioner’s office for a stop-work order at a major industrial operation, such as Lakeland Mills.
Consequently, it’s rarely done.
In addition, fire department inspections on major industrial operations are scheduled events. The fire prevention officer calls up and says he’ll be there on Tuesday. The company, as happened at Lakeland shortly before the explosion and fire that killed Glenn Roche and Al Little, has time to clean the place up and get things in order before the fire prevention officer arrives.
By contrast, WorkSafeBC inspectors will conduct snap inspections on worksites … arriving unannounced. And, WorkSafeBC has legislative teeth to give a stop-work order, should they deem it’s necessary.
It’s time that fire departments everywhere, not just here, were given legislative teeth behind their inspection routines. In other words, if a fire prevention officer orders remedial action at a jobsite and those orders are ignored, there should be real consequences to the company. Those can include hefty fines to actual stop-work orders.
It’s shameful to think that orders, such as developing fire safety plans, are simply ignored.